Scholarly Impact: Study Ranks Berkeley Law Faculty Sixth, With 15 Professors in Their Field’s Top 15

September 14, 2021

Berkeley Law’s powerhouse faculty ranks sixth nationally in scholarly impact, according to the latest version of a study that tracks citations as a measure of professors’ influence. 

And in a new survey of U.S. News & World Report voters conducted as part of the same study, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky — the most-cited law professor in the nation — took the No. 3 slot on the list of most impactful law professors. Professor Orin Kerr is tied for fifth. 

In addition, 13 other Berkeley Law professors were recognized among the most-cited scholars in their fields between 2016 and 2020, including Kerr, who tops the list in criminal law and procedure. Chemerinsky, who’s also the top-cited constitutional law professor during that stretch, calls it a testament to the depth and breadth of the faculty’s excellence. 

“Citation counts, of course, are only one measure of scholarly impact,” he says. “But it is wonderful to see that the Berkeley Law faculty is sixth in the country overall and at the top of so many fields.”

The so-called “Leiter score,” which originated with University of Chicago professor and law blogger Brian Leiter, calculates a faculty’s scholarly impact from the mean and the median of total law journal citations for tenured faculty members over a five-year period. More recently, a group of professors at St. Thomas University School of Law have taken on updating the rankings every three years. 

Berkeley Law ranked seventh in the 2018 edition of that analysis. The school has hired nearly two dozen tenure-track faculty since 2017, including nine in 2019. Just this summer, Professors Jennifer Chacón and Jonathan Glater and Professor Osagie K. Obasogie, the only faculty member to be appointed at both the law school and UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, joined the faculty. 

Leiter used the data compiled by the St. Thomas researchers to create his own lists of the most-cited professors in various fields, and they’re peppered with Berkeley Law names. Here’s who made the list: 

The accolades reflect many of Berkeley Law’s well-known areas of scholarly strength, recognized in the annual U.S. News law school rankings. In 2021, the school was ranked ninth overall and ranked first in intellectual property and environmental law; second in criminal law and criminal procedure; and third in business law.

While citations aren’t the only way to measure scholarly quality, the St. Thomas researchers found in their new experimental survey that the top-ranked professors — Cass Sunstein, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Chemerinsky, and Angela Onwuachi-Willig — closely tracked the most-cited list. 

“Citation-based scholarly impact is a strong proxy for faculty excellence overall,” wrote authors Greg Sisk, Nicole Catlin, Alexandra Anderson, and Lauren Gunderson. 

The school’s success on these lists “reflects our having a tremendously prolific and influential faculty,” Chemerinsky says. “I am honored to be part of it and obviously delighted to see that my own writings are cited by others.”